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The Battle for Aquila IX – The Breakout

  The mobile cannon was left abandoned in the snowy ravine after it came to a dead end.  During the spring thaw this may have been a short waterfall, but it was an impassable cliff for the moment. They were forced to scale the rocky terrain, which was covered in slippery ice.  Loki slipped once, but was caught by Yang, which made Beryl grateful the expert climber had not stayed behind like the nurse had wished.

   They ignored the falling snow and reached the top glad that it had been only a short climb.  Their prize was in sight, a downed airship that had been scouting for the army.  Beryl did not know how the grounded Koudra brought down the airship, but they needed it airborne again quickly.

  Loki rubbed their paws together excitedly as they inspected the craft, which did not seem externally damaged except for where it crashed.  The boiler was still active and with a push they could get it soaring again.  It was like the pilot had just disappeared.  

  The urchin tried not to think about it as he told his friends, “‘old onter yer tails!  We’s got lift!”


  The airships exited the secret hangar out of the cliffside.  Aetheric dampeners on the inside of the facility would keep the Koudra at bay there, but that would not help if they destroyed the main structure. Every strike sent more shudders through the station and threatened to deactivate their safety measures.  Worse, there was always the threat that the ‘angel’ would fully awaken.

  Decagon and the pirates did their best to ignore their impending mortality as they took to the night air in formation.  They did not stop to appreciate the almost full moon or the aurora brightening the sky.  Their battle plan called for them to split into teams of three vessels with one leader calling the shots.  They would take orders from the leader of the small groups and act autonomously to avoid confusion.  

  The aerial fighters turned towards Aquila IX and where the giant beasts tore at the shuttered doors, metal, and bricks.  Already the outlying buildings were broken rubble, and only the center structure remained, sealed off with solid metalic barriers.  

  Decagon watched the unbridled power assaulting the station, knowing that the walls would not stand up to that assault forever.  They could still abandon the station and leave Dupyre and the others to their fate.  The Admiral entertained the idea momentarily and took a sip of rum.  

  “C’est la vie de pirate!”  He pulled out his sword and yelled out to his comrades in arms, “Allons-y!

  The pirates echoed his battle cries and broke into their assigned teams. They attacked from above, raining a fiery death from their flamethrowers onto the sieging beasts.  The Koudra moved quickly grabbing the building and ascended it to the surprise of the buccaneers.  They climbed like spiders scaling a wall unhindered by anything.  

   The pirates were forced to scatter as the beasts leapt for them, spraying control fire from their packs, that held limited tar and kerosene mixtures.  Men shouted in victory as their first beast was engulfed in flames, but then screamed as it clutched their vessel and dragged it to the ground below.  The horde of wildlife surged over the ship like ants devouring the unfortunate souls trapped aboard.

  Decagon and his team fell back and circled the building quickly.  They would have to keep moving as they fired into the beasts, while making sure they did not crash into their own men.  He wondered what other tactics the Koudra would have to surprise them later.


  The alert from above had cancelled Doctor Hartschlägel’s impromptu welcome.  Dozens of clockworks scrambled out of the prison block and towards the elevators as men came on the loudspeaker warning of the attack above.  The electricity flickered repeatedly until finally the lights shut down and emergency lighting activated.  The aetheric dampeners hum continued unabated, but the turrets had deactivated.

  Bookworm turned to Sister Pankirst, who looked as ill as she felt after their cell had been filled with that noxious agent.  “Is that Gammis creating a distraction for us?”

  “I think that unlikely,” The elder nun extinguished the heroine’s hope.   “I do not recognize the voice speaking.  We hoped that our enemies would not be mobilized for as long as possible.  The threat is likely genuine.”

  “Well, at least they are distracted now,” Bookworm offered trying to consider the positive outcome, but it fell flat to even her ear.  “And there are fewer clockworks for Doctor Gammis to…disable?”  She thought it best to stop talking and focus on breathing in fresh air again.


  “Well, there aren’t as many things to smash now,” Jeffrey remarked almost disappointedly as he acquired one of the monitors swords. “Only ten clockworks left.  Most armed with maces, but I think I can take them.”

  “Wh-why d-d-do you h-have to fight them?”  Doctor Gammis queried nervously.  “Th-tey are de-designed to recognize you as an ally.  Co-could’nt you j-just walk everyone out of there?”

  “They won’t attack me, maybe not you” Jeffrey nodded, “But they’ll target prisoners out of the cells.”  He kicked the older monitor. “These guys reminded me of that every other week after I shoved one outside to clean a spill.”  

  “So…them clockworks is gonna come after me?”  Tepic frowned, wishing he had more paint for his slingshot.  He could blind them that way.  

  “They’ll try to anyways,” Jeffrey said as he tossed Tepic the keys. “Stay behind me until they’ve all attacked, then go unlock the cells.”  

  Tepic always believed keys slowed everyone down, but these were even more complicated. The key-ends were circular and had teeth like gears.  It wasn’t until the urchin realized the keys would act like gears he realized the odd locking mechanism they had employed.  Inner gears would be shifted by the master gear he now held in his hand.  For once he would have to use the keys, none of his picks would move all the gears at once as he needed. What an unpleasant, if slightly fascinating, chore.

  Tedious or not, Tepic was ready to take down Progress, “Right, yer can count on me!  An’ I’s gonna start with bustin’ Captain Bookworm out first!  She’s a hero, so we needs her free right off.”

  “Hero?”  Gammis winced at seeing the naive hope and belief conveyed in Tepic’s posture and tone.

  “Aye,”  the urchin nodded to reassure the nervous doctor. “She’s a heroine and she’s gonna send Progress packin’ and then lay inter you scientists fer messin’ wif cloud angels!”

   The doctor looked away from Tepic who was an unpleasant reminder of something he wished to forget.  He muttered softly, “You should never rely on your heroes, child.  They can only disappoint everyone’s ridiculous expectations from them.”

  “You’ll see!”  Tepic insisted which only discomforted the scientist.  “Them heroes is gonna save us!  Jus’ yer watch ‘em!”


  Bookworm wished she could see Mariah and Doohan, but she suspected they were in worse shape than her.  Book perceived several Brothers in their cell trying to remain stoic and dignified. She thought she heard a child’s whimper from farther down but it was subdued and she only had one good ear. Bookworm wondered how they had endured a month of their imprisonment with that reprehensible villain tormenting them daily.  

  Her moment of contemplation ended as fighting erupted down the cellblock.  She tried to look but could not stick her head out of the cell.  The lanky automata rushed towards the threat as metal struck metal.  A familiar voice called out her name, “Miss Book!  We’s here ter rescue yer!”

  “Tepic?!”  Bookworm could almost laugh wildly as she saw broken pieces of the clockworks flying back as if struck by a giant.  She should have known that fox would be part of a rescue effort.  She would have to ask him how he had managed this miraculous intervention later.  Her excitement faded as Tepic ran to her cell and noticed his face covered in dry blood.  “What happened?!  What’s happening?”

  “No time ter explain!” Tepic shouted as more broken clockworks crashed against the floor. “I’s gotta get yer outta there before more Progress blokes attack!”

  Bookworm nodded in agreement as the fox took the odd circular key with five gear points and turned it.  The lock loosened and Bookworm eagerly escaped to aid their rescuers followed by Sister Pankirst who slapped Tepic roughly. “Aiie! Whatcha doin’?!”

 “We will discuss pointing guns at women of any age later, boy,” Sister Pankirst had not forgotten his escape hours ago. “We do not have the time right now.”

 “Yer right!”  Tepic shouted exasperatedly.  “So don’t go slappin’ blokes whose bustin yer outta prison!”  Tepic rubbed his cheek indignantly. Of all the people to imprison with Captain Bookworm it had to be Sister Snooty.  “Jeez!  Is all yer Shores-folk gonna be this ungrateful!?”

  “No,” Pankirst replied, “However, you should resign any dreams of parades or fanfare after these events child.”

  Tepic rolled his eyes and gave the old nun the keys. “If’n yers all gonna slap yer rescuers then yer can bust them out!” He yelled.  Now that the heroine was free Tepic had a more important mission. “I’s gotta rescue the cloud angel ‘fore it unleashes its wrath!”

 “Wait!  Tepic!”  Bookworm called for him to come back.  “It’s too dangerous!  Tepic!”  The urchin ran off on his quest heedless of her cries.  She chased after Tepic urging him to stop.  She couldn’t let him go alone, and the Sister was releasing the other clergy.  

  The heroine had not been expecting Jeffrey to be part of their rescuers nor what he held for a weapon.  He had picked up one of the lanky automatas and was using it to bludgeon the others.  Most of its limbs had already broken off.  They attacked him with their shock maces, but though he had been struck three times and was bleeding the dampeners worked in his favor and prevented his outright collapse. With one final crunch he crushed the last guard and looked up breathing heavily.  

  Tepic had skirted around him, but he rose a large arm in Captain Heinrichs path blocking her.  He stared down at her and allowed Tepic to escape but the heroine figured from his gaze that was incidental. She did not like the malicious way he was staring at her and backed away cautiously, “What are you doing Jeffrey?”  

 “Hello Captain ‘Earworm,” He said as he drew the sword he had recently acquired. “My name is Jeffrey Cortman.”  Bookworm felt the blood drain out of her face as she recognized his last name. “You killed my Grandfather.  Prepare to die.”

  Bookworm stared at the sword feeling overwhelmed and woefully under armed, the Brothers in the nearby cell also sat up momentarily surprised by their rescuers sudden turn.  Doctor Gammis who had been cowering in the corner looked at the local boy shocked,   “Ar-are you se-serious, Jeffrey!?  Now!?”

  “Nah, I’m just messing with you ‘Earworm,” The giant-lad grinned and tossed the sword to the flummoxed Bookworm, who failed to catch it she was so confused.  As she recovered it he gestured for her to follow, “C’mon.  Lets save Captain Dekkar.”

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